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Cape Cod Trail: Family Trip Guide

Location

Plan to arrive Eastham Hostel on Friday 15 June 2018 between 17:00–20:00. Address is 75 Goody Hallet Drive, Eastham, MA 02642, about 2 hours away from Boston. Phone is +1-508-255-2785.

We stay in the same hostel for both nights.

We return on Sunday afternoon about 15:00.

Meals

Your trip fee includes two nights lodging, breakfast Saturday, dinner Saturday, & breakfast Sunday. You purchase dinner Friday, lunch Saturday, lunch Sunday, & snacks for the road.

Bring extra snacks with you. Since we are on the trail for most of the trip, there are no opportunities to purchase food from grocery stores.

Itinerary

All distance & elevation information are approximate based on representative maps.

Leaders reserve the right to change the itinerary for reasons such as weather, road conditions, availability of services, group preference, & other factors.

Friday

Arrive 17:00–20:00.

Eat dinner on your way, or bring it with you to the hostel. There is a kitchen, dining tables, serving plates, & picnic area.

Meet the group, play frisbee in the wide open space, solve puzzles, read a book, or just relax between the trees.

We will have mixed-gender bunk rooms assigned for each family:

  • Four 8-bed cabins
  • Two 4-bed cabins

Bring ear plugs!

There are limited electricity outlets to charge devices. Bring extra battery or turn them off.

Saturday

We have a full day to enjoy beaches, bakery, & bicycles.

After a restful sleep (nobody snores, right?), we wake up slowly with fresh air, quiet neighborhood, & legs ready to ride.

Pack

We eat breakfast, pack lunch, & bring swim gear.

There is no stop for food until early afternoon, depends on how long we stay on the beach. Bring with you bread, peanut butter, jelly, banana, apples, bagels, cheese, granola bars, chocolate, & other food you can eat along the way.

Bring towels, swim suit, wet suite, & change of clothes as needed.

Route

We have an amazing plan to visit the best bakery & the best beach on Cape Cod.

We start on beautiful trail to Coast Guard beach. We stop there for a while, could be an hour or two, depending on weather & how long the kids want to play in the water. Plan on a dip in the ocean. Kids will get wet & sandy. No matter the water is cold.

We continue by light houses to the northern terminus of the trail to visit PB Boulangerie for chocolate almond croissant.

Our distance for the day is around 35km.

Back at the hostel, you have a choice of indoor or outdoor shower before hearty dinner that we will order from nearby restaurant.

Sunday

Pack

We eat breakfast, pack snacks, & bring swim gear. Bring towels, swim suit, wet suite, & change of clothes as needed.

Pack your gear & room. We must check out before we leave for the day. Put all your gear in the car. Leave a change of clothes accessible to shower after we finish the bicycle ride.

Route

Our first stop is at Nickerson State park. We can decide to bicycle the roller coaster park loop or just take a break by the pond:

The trail continues to Seymour Pond. On the return, we have several lunch choices.

Depending on the group’s interest & ability, we have a choice to bicycle up to 35km.

Packing List

Games

Bring small portable games to share: rackets, frisbee, cards, ball, puzzles, kite, Sequence, Sorry, SET, & others.

Swimming

On both days, we will have opportunities to swim, play in the water, & build sand castles. Prepare to get wet. Carry extra towels, sun screen, goggles, & change of clothes.

Bicycle

Bicycle Bag

The most comfortable option for carrying gear, clothes, & food is inside panniers mounted on a bicycle rack. These relieve back pain & keep better balance.

Alternatively, carry a small backpack with such gear, ideally with a waist strap to keep it steady.

Beds

A bunk with mattress, sheets, pillow, pillow case, & blankets are provided. Cabins are not heated. Bring extra sweater, jacket, or sleeping sack. Personal linens & sleeping bags are not permitted.

Bathrooms are outside the cabins, in the main building. Bring headlight to walk out at night.

Clothes

  • Rain gear: there is always a chance of rain. We will look up the weather forecast shortly before the trip. Regardless, rain gear protects from the wind as well, especially on the beach.
  • Casual clothing, vest, jacket, sweater
  • Warm clothing (it can get cool)
  • Lunch food, snacks, & money to purchase
  • Navigation tools: GPS device & phone with navigation apps

Accessories

The following is a long list of items to bring. Use it as a reminder of additional items that can make your trip and rides more comfortable.

  • Bicycle Clothing
    • Vest
    • Socks
    • Gloves
    • Sunglasses
  • Bicycle Gear
  • Casual Clothing
    • Shoes, sandals, or flip flops
    • Slacks
    • T-shirt
    • Long-sleeve shirt
    • Jacket
    • Swim suite, goggles, & towel
  • Accessories
    • Toothbrush
    • Lip balm
    • Toothpaste
    • Razor
    • Shaving cream
    • Contact lens solution & case
    • Glasses
    • Flashlight or head lamp
    • Mobile phone & charger
    • Deodorant
    • Comb (or light hat for the evening)
    • Sunscreen
    • Camera & battery charger
    • GPS, power charger, bicycle mount

Communication

WiFi is available at the hostel.

Mobile phone reception should be available throughout the entire trip.

Phone Navigation

Prepare these steps ahead of the trip when you have internet connection.

  • Install MAPS.ME app on your iPhone or Android phone.
  • Open the app
  • Open menu options from the three horizontal bars at the bottom right corner
  • Select Download Maps
  • In the subsequent menus, navigate to find the country & region to download maps for
  • Download map for United States of America: Massachusetts: Barnstable

Trekking Patagonia: Report

Trip Report: 2–18 March 2018

A pleasant surprise. The entire region around Patagonia in both countries Chile & Argentina were prepared for influx of guests. Roads were smooth despite the harsh weather, trails well maintained, plenty of signs & directions, transport timely, & plenty of bakeries.


Location: 51.721653°S, 72.507858°W

Nevertheless, prepare for rain, wind, cold, sun, & heat—all possibly in one day.

This post is part 3 in a series about this trek in Patagonia:

  1. Prospectus: description for prospective participants, draft itinerary, & instructions to register.
  2. Guide: preparation details about cash, visa, travel, contacts, communication, & lodging.
  3. Trip report of actual trip with pictures, activities, trekking log, & tips.

Travel

Nor’easter rain storm & incompetent customer service at LATAM airlines made for bumpy start of to the trip.

I was still packing school lunch for the kids when messages & calls started coming. Soon after though, I started on the phone & web to adjust travel plans. LATAM was clueless how to manage the replacement flight for cancelled one. Luckily, American Airlines, LATAM’s partner, stepped up & arranged for alternate plan: Friday afternoon drive to JFK for flight that evening at 21:55, flight delayed to next morning at 7:00, sleep 5 hours, fly to EZE, sleep in Buenos Aires for 3 hours, fly to FTE, & finally arrive hostel in El Calafate at 10:00 on Sunday, after almost 42 hours of travel.

This was an AMC Adventure Travel trip that I was leading with Sarah. After all the delays, we still managed to arrive in time to welcome all participants.

I observed momentarily in Buenos Aires the bicycle sharing program:

Ruta 40, passing near Parque Nacional los Glaciares, is on my list of potential bicycle tour trips:


Location: 50.3378°S, 72.2625°W

Laguna Nimez

Exhausted with less than eight hours of sleep in the past two nights, I checked into my room to shower & rest.

By early afternoon, a few participants arrived. They were already in Argentina for a few days. Their flights did not have delays.

Near our hostel was Laguna Nimez bird sanctuary, right on Lake Argentina. At the end of summer with glacial melts, water level was high. Almost half the trail loop was submerged. We still enjoyed the walk & bird varieties: flamenco austral, cisne de cuello negro, & gavilán ceniciento:

Dinner that evening & many more meals on the trip included lamb:

Cerro El Calafate

Rest of the group was due to arrive this afternoon & late evening. Meanwhile, we decided to explore the trails to Cerro El Calafate. It would provide nice views of town, lake, & peaks beyond.

As it turned out, htere were no trails or easy way to climb. The terrain was steep with loose rock & dirt. Nevertheless, we reached a flat rock with nice view protected from the wind:

We ate lunch & scrambled back to town.

Perito Moreno

All participants were accounted for. A private bus & tour guide met us in the morning for a trip to Perito Moreno glacier: one of few remaining balanced glaciers. This calving ice was formed some 500 years ago when Columbus was discovering the New World:


Location: 50.4697°S, 73.0318°W

We returned to El Calafate to get our luggage & transfer to El Chaltén. Lunch & snacks were from Pantagonia panadería & confitería: strudel vegetariano, strudel de manzana, & bretzel dulce.


Location: 50.3385°S, 72.2689°W

In El Chaltén we had a group dinner at Pangea: try the lamb pot.

Laguna Torre

This first mountain hike introduced the pleasant trails of Parque Nacional los Glaciares: smooth, clean, marked, & maintained. Drinking water available from some fresh cool mountain streams.

Trail started right out of town with a gentle climb the entire way, except for a couple of short steep sections, especially the final climb to Laguna Torre, at the bottom of Glaciares Grande & Torre.

That warmed some of us up for a quick plunge despite the strong wind, rough waves, & painful boulders.

We had lunch by the lake before reversing direction back to town.

That evening, we had dinner at Chaltén Cerveza Artesanal, while the kind people at Que Rika bakery nearby baked a fresh batch of empanadas for our picnic next day.


Location: -49.3276°S, 72.8893°W

Laguna de Los Tres

Long day on the trail in cool temperature under cloud cover suitable for hiking. Duration was much longer than yesterday even though distance & elevation were only slightly more.

Hired a taxi to trailhead near Hosteria El Pilar. Started along Río Blanco, where the trail was slightly flooded initially due to recent rain, until we climbed out of river bed.

At Campamento Poincenot, we started a detour to Laguna de Los Tres. The steep part climbed 400m in 1km at almost 45º angle. We found rock shelter from the wind to eat lunch, walked to view emerald green Laguna Sucia, & started descent.

We picked up pace as it was getting late. But not to miss a plunge in Laguna Capri. In contrast with yesterday’s, this was calm, clear, & easier to walk on fine pebbles.

We finished late at 18:30. Everyone was ready for food, starting with dessert at a Los Salteños confitería near trailhead: ducle de leche cookie sandwich.

Lago Viedma

Originally the plan was for a trek on Viedma glacier with boots, crampons, & other mountaineering equipment. That changed to a walk nearby.

The glacier had been retreating slowly but surely for many years at the rate of 50m per year. Two years ago, that accelerated to 500m per year when it lost its southern anchor. It started moving rapidly at 6m per day, changing its shape constantly. A trek on the glacier was no longer an option.

Instead, we walked on that very rock that used to be an anchor. It had big round edges, smooth to the touch from fine sanding as the glacier moved, & multiple colors from rusted iron in the magma rock.

We found shelter from the howling wind to each lunch before a boat ride passing near the glacier.

Back in El Chaltén, we walked to Chorille del Salto, observed the falls for a few minutes in the área de contemplación, & returned to town for dark chocolate at Josh Aike la Chocolatería Artesenal.

Cueva del Milodón

We were in for a couple of pleasant surprises.

We had spent the day before on a long drive, 500km in 7 hours, from El Chaltén in Argentina to Puerto Natales, the Última Esperanza, in Chile:

This morning, we were still looking for a bakery in general & empanadas in particular. Our driver knew exactly where the locals went: San Fabian panadería y pastelería. The oven was in the store. Empanadas queso, pollo, & carno were still warm in the baskets:


Location: 51.729070°S, 72.483322°W

A short drive later, we arrived park for Cueva del Milodón. It was supposed to be a quick visit to the main cave & back in just about an hour. The cave was large 200m deep, where remains of Mylodon darwini were discovered. A replica of the giant ground sloth is at the entrance:

We continued to spend four hours wandering through the beautiful park to climb to the cave roof, crawl into other smaller caves, sit on Silla del Diablo.

Glaciar Grey

We travelled to Torres del Paine part for our first night there in Refugio Grey. It took us 10 hours:

  • Drive from Puerto Natales: 2h:05m
  • Wait near ferry terminal with short walk to falls: 1h:48m
  • Catamaran across Lago Pehoé: 33m
  • Lunch break at Lodge Paine Grande: 52m
  • Hike to Refugio Grey: 4h:40m

The trail along Lago Grey offered many views of the glacier. We then dropped our backpacks at the hut for a short hike to the lake shore:

Paine Grande

The main hike for the day took us back to Lodge Paine Grande that we passed by yesterday. Expected time was less than four hours.

Some of us opted for a light & fast round-trip hike to nearby suspension bridge with expanded view of the glacier:

We put our backpacks at the refugio & continued to Paine Grande. Just as we arrived, sun & clouds cleared from Cerro Paine Grande nearbyt & Valle del Francés in the far distance:

Valle del Francés

There was no way to plan a hike with views anywhere in the park. The weather throughout the trip, while between the mountains, was changing by the minute. Some groups could travel half way around the world for the views & miss them by hours.

Today the weather was reasonably nice, although the clouds can cover the peaks any time. We left our packs at área de acampar Italiano to climb up through Valle del Francés. We got a few glimpses along the way that promised good views. We pressed on to Mirador Francés.

There they were, from left: Espada, Hoja, Máscara, & Cuernos del Paine:

For most of the afternoon, we walked with full views of the cuernos on our left. You can see the shadow of “el baqueano Zamora” riding a horse on the wall of east horn:


Location: 50.9431°S, 72.9503°W

Shortly before Refugio Los Cuernos, we stopped on the shores of Lago Nordenskjöld for a break & to dip our feet in the water.

Refugio Chileno

Early this morning I ran with one of the guides to Hotel Las Torres. We set off hiking fast, then picked up the pace even faster. As we got closer to the hotel, he mentioned a goal of completing the hike of 12km in two hours. That is 10:00/km pace, which will require some running.

Never mind we had full packs on. Mine was tiny 28l. His was huge 100l. We still pressed on faster & faster until it turned into a full run for the last 30 minutes. We made it in 1:57:58.

After a break, we climbed to Refugio Chileno for a substantial lunch of large meat sandwich & beer:


Location: 50.9573°S, 72.9105°W

By now, we discovered merkén spice made from smoked chili pepper. We sprinkled it on everything especially meat.

We had also learned to fill our water bottles along the trail from small mountain springs with cold pure water, similar to what I had often done in the Swiss alps:


Location: 50.956905°S, 72.911583°W

In the afternoon, we met with the group to attempt hike to Los Torres. The gate was closed though at the base of final climb. The sign indicated that it closed daily at 16:00. We returned to refugio for a good dinner, sprinkled with merkén of course, with a plan to attempt the hike next day.

Los Torres

The morning weather was not promising: heavy cloud cover & fog. We met several disappointed people returning from the peak without a sunrise view. We pressed on nonetheless.

My reward waiting at the top was a Toblerone bar, despite the health warnings found in Chile on foods that have Alto en Azúcares, Alto en Grasas Saturadas, & Alto en Calorías. All three applied to chocolate:

And just for a short window, as we reached the mirador base de las Torres, we got a lucky view of towers that often hide in clouds:

We returned in the afternoon to Puerto Natales for some last minute shopping & group dinner at Aldea restaurant.

Next morning, I could not leave town without a stop at San Fabian bakery for breakfast empanadas. It was a convenient short walk from bus terminal. Drive to Punta Arenas aeroporte of 230km in 2h:43m was in comfortable bus on well maintained roads, with no stopes or services along the way.

Ruta 9 was on flat open plain, away from mountains, consistently WNW wind, some sheep farms, & occasional mobile phone service.

Then started flight back home: PUQ–SCL–MIA–BOS.

Itinerary

Day Places Log
Friday 2 March 2018 Rent one-way car for drive to New York City. Flight delayed to next morning. Stay overnight. Car & hotel through Hotwire.
Dinner at Mitsuwa Japanese market
Saturday Flight all day from JFK–EZE. Transfer by bus to Buenos Aires. Stay overnight for flight early next day. Hotel through Hotwire.
Sunday 16:19 Room & board: Hosteria Cauquenes de Nimez, Calle 303 nº 79, reservas@cauquenesdenimez.com.ar, +54-2902-492306 Log data as recorded by Garmin Fēnix 5.
Map from Garmin & Strava: download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track.
Earth view of route.

➡️ Distance 3.34km
⏩ Pace 24:57min/km
🔄 Duration 1h:23m:13s
⬆️ Ascent 49m
⬇️ Descent 46m
📶 Temperature 22.5ºC

Monday 5 March 2018 9:10 Pantagonia panadería & confitería Garmin, Strava, & earth view
➡️ 14.51km
⏩ 24:37min/km
🔄 5:57:20
⬆️ 443m
⬇️ 404m
📶 23.8ºC
Tuesday
  • Visit Perito Moreno glacier. Drive to El Chaltén.
  • Room & breakfast: Patagonia Hostel, Av San Martín 376, patagoniahostelelchalten@gmail.com, +54-2962-493019
  • Wednesday 8:12 Laguna Torre Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 22.26km
    ⏩ 22:30min/km
    🔄 8:20:21
    ⬆️ 691m
    ⬇️ 657m
    📶 16.7ºC
    Thursday 8:58 Lago de los Tres Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 24.81km
    ⏩ 23:40min/km
    🔄 9:47:35
    ⬆️ 995m
    ⬇️ 1,046m
    📶 5.8ºC
    Friday 15:48 Boat tour on Lago Viedma. Walked to Chorille del Salto. Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 8.49km
    ⏩ 13:08min/km
    🔄 1:51:32
    ⬆️ 136m
    ⬇️ 131m
    📶 17.6ºC
    Saturday 9:05
  • El Chaltén in Argentina to Puerto Natales, the Última Esperanza, in Chile.
  • Room & breakfast: Hotel Vendaval, Eberhard 333, contacto@hotelvendaval.com, +56-61-2691759, +56-61-2691760.
  • Garmin
    ➡️ 508.63km
    ⏩ 75.2km/hr
    🔄 6:45:49
    Sunday 11:23
  • San Fabian panadería y pastelería.
  • Cueva del Milodón.
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 12.90km
    ⏩ 17:21min/km
    🔄 3:43:48
    ⬆️ 290m
    ⬇️ 260m
    📶 14.7ºC
    Monday 12 March 2018 7:09 Room & board: Refugio Grey, 51.0082806ºS, 73.1771445ºW, +56-61-241-2742 Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 11.94km
    ⏩ 23:30min/km
    🔄 4:40:47
    ⬆️ 527m
    ⬇️ 535m
    📶 6.9ºC
    Tuesday 9:18 Grey mirador Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 7.90km
    ⏩ 19:36min/km
    🔄 2:34:52
    ⬆️ 409m
    ⬇️ 415m
    📶 3.9ºC
    Tuesday 13:18 Room & board: Paine Grande, 51.0724357ºS, 73.096196ºW, +56-61-241-2742 Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 11.32km
    ⏩ 18:39min/km
    🔄 3:31:03
    ⬆️ 469m
    ⬇️ 484m
    📶 6.0ºC
    Wednesday 8:30
  • Valle del Francés.
  • Room & board: Los Cuernos Refugio, 51.0239156ºS, 72.9877405ºW, +56-61-2614184, +56-61-2614185.
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 20.79km
    ⏩ 23:28min/km
    🔄 8:07:51
    ⬆️ 933m
    ⬇️ 945m
    📶 6.5ºC
    Thursday 8:07 Lago Nordenskjöld trail run Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 11.67km
    ⏩ 10:07min/km
    🔄 1:57:58
    ⬆️ 463m
    ⬇️ 416m
    📶 7.1ºC
    Thursday 11:28 Room & board: El Chileno Refugio, 50.9572316ºS, 72.9129312ºW, +56-61-2614184, +56-61-2614185. Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 4.73km
    ⏩ 14:28min/km
    🔄 1:08:23
    ⬆️ 432m
    ⬇️ 145m
    📶 18.0ºC
    Thursday 15:24 Las Torres camp Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 8.19km
    ⏩ 21:35min/km
    🔄 2:56:57
    ⬆️ 370m
    ⬇️ 381m
    📶 6.4ºC
    Friday 8:32 Las Torres Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 10.67km
    ⏩ 22:56min/km
    🔄 4:04:40
    ⬆️ 674m
    ⬇️ 705m
    📶 7.7ºC
    Friday 13:58 Las Torres hotel Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 6.34km
    ⏩ 16:40min/km
    🔄 1:45:41
    ⬆️ 151m
    ⬇️ 432m
    📶 13.7ºC
    Friday 16:06 Hotel Vendaval in Puerto Natales. Garmin
    ➡️ 120.73km
    ⏩ 65.4km/h
    🔄 1:50:50
    Saturday 17 March 2018 9:04
  • Breakfast empanadas at San Fabian panadería y pastelería.
  • Punta Arenas airport.
  • Garmin
    ➡️ 229.25km
    ⏩ 84.3km/h
    🔄 2:43:13

    Packing List

    This list contains every single item I carried on the backpack section of the trip, while hiking the W in Torres del Paine. On remaining days of the trip, I had a few additional items, though not much.

    Generic packing list available in prospectus.

    • Backpack: Osprey Kestrel 28. The pack is versatile, light, & comfortable. Enough pockets to organize gear, attachments to hang laundry, loops to hold poles, straps to adjust fit, & capacity to hold gear for two weeks. I had extra space to carry several chocolate bars.
      • Mid weight long sleeve shirt x2 (Arc’teryx Thetis Zip-Neck & Sugoi): alternated between the two every day. Temperature was cool enough to use them on all hikes in combination with vest.
      • Medium weight cargo pants (Mont-Bell): warm & easy to wash.
      • Base layer wool hoodie, long sleeve (Ibex Indie Hoodie): backup layer for extra warmth. Did not use.
      • Base layer wool long pants (Smartwool): backup layer for extra warmth. Did not use.
      • Mid weight wool shirt, long sleeve (Smartwool): backup layer for extra warmth. Did not use.
      • Hard shell rain pants (Outdoor Research Elixir)
      • Hard shell rain jacket (Arc’teryx Norvan): rain, wind, & extra warm layer
      • Running shorts (2) (Sugoi RSR): used constantly as underwear, swim shorts, & regular shorts on warm days. At any lake, I could quickly take off the long pants, jump in the cold water, & back. Changed between the two shorts every evening, while washing the other.
      • Beanie (Arc’teryx): mainly for sleeping, extra long to cover eyes & ears.
      • Toe liner socks x2 (Mont-Bell)
      • Waterproof socks (Sealskinz): use with trail running shoes in case of rain. No significant rain for the entire trip, so never got to test them properly.
      • Socks wool low cut: spare to use on dry days when waterproof socks not needed. Never used. We had rain or wet trails every day.
      • Towel, microfiber, medium (MSR): for hands & body
      • Gloves warm (Outdoor Research): used most days.
      • Gloves waterproof shell (REI): used over warm gloves to keep rain out.
      • Flip-flops: use around lodge & in shower.
      • Sleeping bag (Feathered Friends Vireo): ultra light no fuss sleeping bag, no hoodie, no zipper, packs in small 5l sack. We ordered bedding package which included sheets, pillow cover, & blanket. On most nights, I used the sleeping bag regardless for extra warmth.
      • Emergency bivy: water & wind proof, reflect heat internally, & adds a light shelter until more help arrives.
      • First aid kit.
      • Dry sacks (Outdoor Research): medium size, thin, not bulky. Store spare layers to secure from any water.
      • Bag rain cover, included with bag.
      • Headphones: listen to music & podcasts on phone.
      • Playing cards + Bicycle card rules app on iPhone.
      • Temperature electronic sensor (Garmin Tempe: attached to external strap of backpack. Garmin Fēnix watch reads temperature from this sensor, instead of its own sensor impacted by radiant heat from my arm
    • Toiletry bag
      • Clothes pin (4): hang washed clothes. Did not use. Rained or drizzled daily.
      • Lip balm.
      • Tooth floss, brush, & paste.
      • Liquid soap (Sea to Summit)
      • Band-aid.
      • Nail clipper: especially for toe nails to keep them from cutting other toes & getting from getting blue
      • Tweezers: pick a splinter or clean a cut
      • Short straps (Outdoor Research): attach to backpack for extra capacity or hang clothes to dry
      • AAA batteries x4: spare for headlight.
      • USB battery, 13,000mAh (Brookstone): charged phone & GPS watches for entire trip on W trail.
      • Electricity power plug adapter to use with USB charger.
      • USB Charger (Apple): one port. Did not use.
      • USB cables (5) for Fēnix 5 watch, Suunto Spartan watch, iPhone, micro USB, & mini USB
      • Mouth wash (Listerine) in small 8oz Nalgene bottle.
      • Spork (Snow Peak)
    • Backpack pockets: emergency supplies within easy reach
    • Waistpack (Arc’teryx Maka 2): frequent use & secure items, always close to me.
      • iPhone 6s: frequent use during the day to take pictures or look at map. Evening for email, Twitter, & general communication.
      • Note pad & pencil: write notes about each day & GPS measurements log.
      • Pen: to fill forms at airport or post office.
      • Passport.
      • Cash.
      • Identification card.
      • Global Entry card.
      • Band-aid.
      • Credit card: used most of the time to pay for food, snacks, & drinks.
      • Dry sack: small to store passport, cash, & most content.
      • Debit card: did not use.
      • Knife.
    • Me:
      • GPS watches (Garmin Fēnix 5 & Suunto Spartan): recorded log of daily treks, distance, elevation, & map. Suunto struggled for most of the trip to calibrate elevation.
      • Sun & rain hat (Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero). Wide rim to protect from sun. Waterproof with ventilation to protect from rain.
      • Sunglasses (Julbo Zephyr)
      • Trail running shoes (Salomon Sense Pro 2): comfortable, light, soft, mesh top to keep feet dry. No problem in rain & mud when wearing the waterproof socks. Shoes dried quickly afterwards.
      • Vest insulated with Primaloft (Outdoor Research): wore all the time, except when sleeping.
    • Missed: some items that I want to remember for the next trip
      • Heart rate belt & gel.
      • Dice to play Perudo.
      • Hair clipper for beard.
      • Eraser.
      • iPhone 2m charging cable.

    Variations

    On another trip, I would spend the entire time in Chile to save travel time within & from Argentina. Distance were too far for little gain.

    Instead, I would hike the entire o circuit of Torres del Paine, visit other area in the park, kayak on a lake, hike on Grey glacier, & visit the penguins island near Punta Arenas.

    Puerto Natales is a very nice town with many good restaurants, services, & local destinations.

    Trekking Patagonia: Guide

    Trip Guide: 3–18 March 2018

    Part 2 in a series to prepare for the trip:

    1. Prospectus: description for potential participants, draft itinerary, & instructions to register.
    2. Guide: this post.
    3. Report of actual trip with pictures, activities, trekking log, & tips. This will be posted a few weeks after finishing the trip.

    Visa

    No visa required for US citizens to enter either Argentina or Chile.

    • Your passport must be valid for six months after time of entry.
    • Stamp your passport on entry & exit.
    • Do not lose your tourist card.
    • Keep passport & cash safe in a money belt.

    Transfer in Buenos Aires

    Most likely in Buenos Aires your international flight will transfer in Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) to local flight in Jorge Newbery Airfield (AEP). Allow at least three hours to transfer between the two.

    Immigration section displays transport options. The safest is by Manuel Tienda León bus, 45 minutes, AR$255. Alternate option is taxi, AR$950. Book either in transport office. Under no circumstances accept a verbal offer or choose another option.

    Check with your airline. This transfer is not likely included with your ticket.

    Download Buenos Aires map on your MAPS.ME phone app in advance of the trip to track your location.

    Transfer from FTE

    Comandante Armando Tola International Airport (FTE) is 21km east of town.

    Collect your baggage. Look for transport options at the airport:

    Remember to update your flight information on the shared schedule. It contains the airline information of all participants who have already booked their flights. Doing this will allow you to see who else is traveling at the same time and allows leaders to track down individuals if there are flight delays.

    Trip ends at 12:00 on Saturday 17 March 2018 in Punta Arenas airport (PUQ). We travel by bus that morning from Puerto Natales. Your flight should depart after 14:00 to allow transit time.

    Location

    We will meet on Sunday 4 March 2018 at 18:00 in the lobby of Hosteria Cauquenes de Nimez, Calle 303 nº 79, +54-2902-492306. We will make introductions and eat dinner. If you miss us at dinner time we will see you at 7:00 next day, Monday morning.

    Itinerary

    Details are in prospectus.

    All distance & elevation information are approximate based on representative maps.

    The leaders reserve the right to change the itinerary for reasons such as weather, trail conditions, availability of accommodations, group preference, etc.

    Cost

    Prospectus includes details about meals, transport, permits, & others included with trip fee.

    Currency

    Exchange rates at the time of writing this guide on 13 January 2018 were:

    To cover meals & minor personal expenses, bring about US$300 for Argentina & US$200 for Chile.

    Obtain initial cash from your local bank in the United States. Alternate option is to use local ATMs in Argentina & Chile. Transactions fees could be around US$25.

    Avoid exchange kiosks at airports.

    Credit card option is available in some locations:

    • Check about foreign transaction fees from your bank. Some credit cards waive such fees.
    • Advise your bank of travel plans to avoid interruption of service. Depending on your travel habits, some banks may decline foreign transactions on suspicion of fraud.

    Food

    We have not read nor do we know of any concerns regarding the health & safety of water or food in either countries. Slight reaction is expected on the first day or two due to long travel & change of environment. We will monitor closely.

    Do not bring any food items into either countries. It will be confiscated. Searches are thorough at border crossings. This includes fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers, seeds, & milk products.

    Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness. It can occur anywhere, but the highest-risk destinations are in most of Asia (except for Japan) as well as the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America.

    In otherwise healthy adults, diarrhea is rarely serious or life-threatening, but it can certainly make for an unpleasant trip. Take steps to avoid diarrhea when you travel.

    Guide

    References we used to prepare this guide:

    Communication

    Phone

    Your phone must have appropriate hardware to work in Argentina & Chile. Check for compatibility in advance.

    Your mobile phone plan must be enabled to allow international access. Check with your service provider in advance.

    You can buy an international data plan. For example, with Verizon, purchase a plan for $40 to get 100MB of data, 100 minutes of telephone access, and 100 texts.

    Alternatively, for open phones, you may purchase a SIM card locally from the towns we visit, which will give you a local phone number & data plan.

    No Phone

    You may decide not to use your phone at all during the trip. The safest way is to remove the SIM card as you board the plane in the US.

    Alternatively, you can switch it into airplane mode & enable only wifi during the trip.

    Mobile Data

    To avoid accidental high charges, turn mobile data off. International data use can be very expensive. On iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular > turn the “Cellular Data” switch off at top of screen. Check for instructions specific to your own device.

    Apps

    If periodic contact when wifi is available is sufficient, consider downloading an app that allows you to call home on wifi for free.

    Apps to consider are:

    • Viber: call phone numbers for free when the other party has Viber app. Or call any phone number for a fee using Viber Out.
    • WhatsApp: requires that both you and the party you are calling to both have the WhatsApp application installed, in my experience the WhatsApp voice quality is discernibly better.
    • Skype: call friends you already have connection with on Skype. Or call any phone number for a fee.

    WiFi

    WiFi is available at most hotels & hostels when we are in town. Mountain huts do not have internet & in many cases do not have mobile signal reception.

    It is not clear about available connection at airports.

    Navigation

    We would like every participant to have a navigation tool as backup. Some of you may already have a dedicated GPS device. Another option is to use your mobile phone.

    This is not for continuous navigation, as it will quickly drain the phone’s battery. Instead, it is for occasional use to confirm location, route, & destination.

    Note that these files & GPS signal will work even without mobile phone signal or data connection.

    Here are instructions to download maps for offline use without mobile signal. The maps include trails and waypoints that we will visit on the trip. Prepare these steps ahead of the trip when you have internet connection.

    • Install MAPS.ME app on your iPhone or Android phone.
    • Open the app.
    • Open menu options from the three horizontal bars at the bottom right corner.
    • Select Download Maps.
    • In the subsequent menus, navigate to find the country & region to download maps.
    • Download the entire country maps for Argentina & Chile, or just the following regions:
      • Argentina: Buenos Aires & Patagonia
      • Chile: Chile—South

    GPS antenna will work even when the phone is in airplane mode to save battery.

    Trail Lunches

    There will be opportunities to buy lunch supplies along the trek. The leaders will let you know when these opportunities arise. Alternatively, one can always buy a sandwich from the place we are staying by ordering it the night before.

    Showers

    Most huts and all hotels have showers. In huts, there is usually a nominal charge.

    Use washbasins for laundry. Bring light nylon cord & pins to hang up your clothes to dry.

    Bags

    There are potentially three bags you need on the trip. Try to nest them within each other, or better yet, bring only one.

    • Day pack: all treks, except for the W in Torres del Paine, will be day trips, with only a change of clothes, snacks, lunch, & necessary day gear.
    • Overnight pack: during the W in Torres del Paine.
    • Extra storage: store in Puerto Natales while on the W trek.

    Rami will carry Osprey Kestrel 28 liters. Sarah will carry 58 liters backpack.

    Overnight Pack

    We cannot emphasize enough the attention you need to give for choosing the correct pack and pack weight.

    • Size & weight (without water or food) matter. Aim for 38 liters & 8kg for comfortable light hike that allows you to run up the mountain. Cannot fit everything in? Try 48 liters & 12kg, trading some comfort with a third change of clothes. You cannot hike without those extra equipment “just in case”, no matter how much your shoulders ache & feet suffer? Go all out with 58 liters & 16kg. But remember, “we you told so”.
    • Fit matters: get the right fit for your torso. Ever wondered what all these straps are for? Stop by your REI or local outdoor store for proper fitting.
    • Packing matters: keep heavy items in the middle to lower part of the pack, close to your back. Light items go on the outer & top layers. But none of this matters, because your whole pack is very light, right?

    Extra Storage

    You may bring small amount of extra clothes & gear in small soft-sided bag to store while on the W hike in Torres del Paine. These may be to used for an extended stay in the area before or after the hike. The bag is also useful to house your backpack & poles to check them in airline luggage.

    The bag will stay in Puerto Natales storage at your own risk during the second week of our trip. Leave only small low value items. Take with you all valuables.

    Packing List

    Group Gear

    There are a few elements that need to be carried by the group:

    • Inflatable mat: can be attached to the outside of a pack with a strap
    • Space blanket
    • Bivy
    • Satellite emergency beacon

    Sarah & Rami will always carry maps & group first aid.

    Personal Gear

    Prospectus has detailed list of required & optional items to pack. Detailed list, item by item, that Rami will use based on experience from several trips.

    Rain

    Plan on rain & wind. We heard this consistently from other leaders who led the trip in prior years. The priority then is to:

    • Keep your gear dry: sleeping bag & change of clothes. Backpack rain cover is required but not enough, especially in the wind. Stuff essential items in individual dry sacks, or inside one large construction-grade garbage bag.
    • Stay warm: you will get wet, either from the rain or perspiration. Minimize perspiration by wearing layers. Plan on thin base layer, medium warm layer, warm layer, & outer shell. For top & bottom. You can mix & match these layers depending on weather & trail conditions.

    Contact

    Country

    Service Argentina Chile
    Country phone code +54 +56
    Police 101, 911, or *31416 from mobile phone 133
    Ambulance 107 131
    US Embassy +54-11-5777-4533 +56-2-2330-3000
    Embassy in US +1-202-238-6400 +1-202-530-4106
    Health alerts Zika virus has been reported. Public health officials have reported that mosquitoes are infected with Zika and spreading it to people. None
    Healthy Travel Packing list Packing list

    Lodging

    Date Contact
    Sunday 4 March 2018: El Calafate Hosteria Cauquenes de Nimez, Calle 303 nº 79, reservas@cauquenesdenimez.com.ar, +54-2902-492306
    Monday 5 March 2018: El Calafate Hosteria Cauquenes de Nimez
    Tuesday: El Calafate Hosteria Cauquenes de Nimez
    Wednesday: El Chaltén Patagonia Hostel, Av San Martín 376, patagoniahostelelchalten@gmail.com, +54-2962-493019
    Thursday: El Chaltén Patagonia Hostel
    Friday: El Chaltén Patagonia Hostel
    Saturday: Puerto Natales Hotel Vendaval, Eberhard 333, contacto@hotelvendaval.com, +56-61-2691759, +56-61-2691760
    Sunday: Puerto Natales Hotel Vendaval
    Monday 12 March 2018: Torres del Paine Refugio Grey, 51.0082806ºS, 73.1771445ºW, +56-61-241-2742
    Tuesday: Torres del Paine Paine Grande, 51.0724357ºS, 73.096196ºW, +56-61-241-2742
    Wednesday: Torres del Paine Los Cuernos Refugio, 51.0239156ºS, 72.9877405ºW, +56-61-2614184, +56-61-2614185
    Thursday: Torres del Paine El Chileno Refugio, 50.9572316ºS, 72.9129312ºW, +56-61-2614184, +56-61-2614185
    Friday: Puerto Natales Hotel Vendaval

    El Calafate

    • Restaurants:
    • Shopping:
    • Points of interest:
      • Tourist office: supposedly there are three in the bus terminal, center of Libertador General San Martin street, & at entrance of town. No exact address available.
      • Visit Glaciarium Patagonian Ice Museum. AR$360. Walk 6km or take a free shuttle with hourly departures from the parking lot of the tourist office. Models, dioramas, photographs, screens, & other interactive presentations are housed within two halls. The history of early explorers and scientists. Fabulous photography from renowned photographers. Model of the Southern Patagonia Ice-Field and all the glaciers in the region.
      • Walk in Laguna Nímez bird sanctuary. AR$150. Flamingos, black-necked swans, & other birds. ➡️ 5km.
      • Hike to Cerro El Calafate: barren hill south of town, full view of town & Lago Argentino, ➡️ 6km, ⬆️ 1,000m.

    El Chaltén

    Map App

    Maps.me

    I use Maps.me locally, on road trips, & on outdoor adventures because it:

    • Includes detailed network of trails
    • Works off-line without need for mobile phone signal or internet connection
    • Navigates to a point destination using multiple modes of transport
    • Supports user content for custom points of interest & routes
    • Displays easy to use screen that moves very fast

    Install

    Here are instructions to download maps for offline use without mobile signal. Prepare these steps ahead of the trip when you have internet connection.

    • Install MAPS.ME app on your mobile device
    • Open the app
    • Open menu options from the three horizontal bars at the bottom right corner
    • Select Download Maps
    • In the subsequent menus, navigate to find the country & region to download maps for
    • Return from the app to this web page to add markers

    Points of Interest

    Quick links to download points of interest from various maps. Select the title of each map to view more details about it:

    Ride with GPS

    To download a route from Ride with GPS:

    Tuscany Food & Wine

    Trip Report: 17–24 September 2017

    I had just finished bicycle Route des Grandes Alpes & hike a parallel GR5 trail from Lac Léman to the Mediterranean sea.

    It was time for Tuscany tour: hills, farms, thermal bath, food, & wine.

    This was about to be a relaxing tour. Bicycling was a bonus between wine stops.

    РЖД

    I decided on an overnight train leaving Menton at 22:57 on Saturday 16 September 2017 to arrive Verona at 6:07 on Sunday. From there, I would transfer onto local trains to meet the group with Appalachian Mountain Club, Adventure Travel.

    Mystery surrounded this train from the beginning. No reservation agent seemed familiar with it or able to book a ticket on it. Web site returned an error. In person at Menton train station, the agent called her manager for help.

    This was a Russian RZD train between Nice & Moscow.

    Despite the mysteries & difficulties, I had a first rate experience. It departed & arrived promptly on schedule. Private sleeping room was comfortable & clean. I slept very well that night.

    I was off to a good start.

    Hills

    My friend Mike defines challenging bicycle routes as those that climb 100 feet per 1 mile (roughly 20m/km). We often search in New England for such routes with little success if at all. Even the LAMB gaps were at 17m/km.

    This was not a problem in Tuscany. It seemed that whenever we mapped a route, we could count on exceeding this threshold.

    And so it was how the trip started. We offered a base loop. For some of us who wanted more, we added distance & elevation for a total distance of 58.69km & ascent of 1,248m, or 21.26m/km.

    These climbs would have been easier with better bakery choices. But there was no such treat in Tuscany. Meager bakery, bread, & pastry choice:

    Never mind. Drink wine instead. Or eat dried fig & nuts cake:


    Location: 43.0769°N, 11.6781°E

    Bagno Vignoni

    Water + bicycle. Olive + bread. Chocolate + meüsli.

    It only gets better with hot thermal water:

    Forecast was for rain that morning. We started early with a climb to Castello di Ripa d’Orcia. The final stretch of that climb was at grades near 25% or steeper. We tour the castle & town for an extended time. We stopped at Coop market for deli lunch, cheese, yogurt, & chocolate just before it closed at 13:00.

    Sky started to clear as we descended to Bagno Vignoni. It seemed popular with tourists: large buses, busy restaurants, & multiple hotels.

    Some in our groups chose to walk by a thermal river to dip their tired legs. The remaining lucky ones paid 20€ for full dip in thermal pools of Posta Marcucci.

    Only when our skin was red & completely wrinkled, we lazily put our bicycle clothes back on to ride back to Pienza.

    Pizza

    We spent most of the day at Podere il Casale farm for tour, cheese, & baking.

    In a large bowl, added 2 cups of warm water, tea spoon yeast, table spoon olive oil, & table spoon honey. Mixed well until foamy. Added white flour slowly while mixing until slightly sticky.

    Moved the mix onto table surface to knead by hand adding more flour slowly. Until the dough was the consistency & feel of marshmallow.

    Rolled 250g in a ball, covered in wet towel, put in fridge for 1 hour. Dipped the ball in flour, flattened, shook flour off, flattened out all the way.

    Looked for fig to use on pizza:


    Location: 43.080791°N, 11.711741°E

    It was post season, so was able to find only two suitable to eat. All others were rotten.

    Added pizza toppings: tomato sauce, feta cheese, arugula, & fig. Baked in wood burning oven.

    Olive

    Blue Mountain trail running race was on my mind, coming up in 10 days on 1 October 2017.

    Still dark, I put a headlight on to start running at 6:00. Sunrise was at 6:59, which I wanted to view from Monticchiello. Many parts were on trail network of Rete Escursionistica Toscana:

    We transferred to Montalcino for the remainder of our trip. Plenty of olive trees along the way:

    None of them were for eating though. Apparently, these are for cold press olive oil. Olive to eat comes from southern Italy.

    Wine

    Eroica, bicycle museum, pomegranate, & plenty of wine at Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona:

    We started with a short climb to Passo del Lume Sperto at 621m before a long beautiful descent. Turned left to get on a gravel “white” road lined with vineyards.

    Pomegranate tree with was stranded on the side of the road, so we helped with a couple of ripe fruits. Then we discovered even more pomegranate when we arrived at Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona winery.

    We had a private tour there of vineyard, cellars, bicycle museum, & wines. The owner is a big bicycle fan, displays vintage bicycles in the museum, manages a club, & races in Eroica. Some in our group purchased jerseys & club membership.

    Gelato

    Why Not? was the gelato of choice in Montalcino: mix of pistachio, hazelnut, & intense dark chocolate:

    The morning descent from Montalcino was frightening: heavy fog, no visibility, fast road, no shoulders, & cold hands. Bad combination. That stretched for a while until we reached Buoncovento.

    Turned right to climb to Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggoire: old abbey with chants, murals, & restaurant nearby. A Jaguar car show was on the grounds. After admiring them, we toured the abbey, ate lunch, & continued our bicycle tour through San Giovanni d’Asso back to Montalcino.

    Time for more gelato.

    Fly Swiss

    Taking a taxi for three hours to Fiumicino “Leonardo da Vinci” International Airport in Rome was a mistake: small space, dizzying small roads, & aggressive driver. Train would have been a better choice.

    Miraculously, arrived safely to airport, checked in, shopped for limoncello, & boarded my flight back to Boston.

    Connection in Zürich was too short to shop for chocolate. But the flight had sufficient supplies:

    Itinerary

    Day Places Log
    Sunday 17 September 2017 Train to Chiusi. Taxi to Pienza. Check in Relais il Chiostro di Pienza. Rent bicycles for the group.
    Monday 18 September 2017 9:28 Bakery & café in Trequanda
    Coop small market in San Giovanni d’Asso
    Map from Garmin & Strava: download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track
    Earth view of route
    ➡️ Distance 58.69km
    ⏩ Speed 10.3km/h
    🔄 Duration 5h:43m:12s
    ⬆️ Ascent 1,248m
    ⬇️ Descent 1,237m
    *️⃣ Calories 2,269
    📶 Temperature 21.3ºC
    Tuesday 9:51 Coop market in Castiglione d’Orcia Garmin & Strava
    Earth view
    ➡️ 38.2km
    ⏩ 5.4km/h
    🔄 7:04:17
    ⬆️ 706m
    ⬇️ 706m
    *️⃣ 1,394
    📶 17.1ºC
    Wednesday 8:32 Handmade pizza at Podere il Casale farm Garmin & Strava
    Earth view
    ➡️ 32.43km
    ⏩ 3.9km/h
    🔄 8:14:49
    ⬆️ 732m
    ⬇️ 752m
    *️⃣ 1,265
    📶 14.4ºC
    Thursday 10:01 Coop market in Castiglione d’Orcia
    Change hotel to Residenza Palazzo Saloni
    Garmin & Strava
    Earth view
    ➡️ 43.13km
    ⏩ 10.9km/h
    🔄 3:57:57
    ⬆️ 855m
    ⬇️ 813m
    *️⃣ 1,628
    📶 21.1ºC
    Friday 11:15 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona winery Garmin & Strava
    Earth view
    ➡️ 27.28km
    ⏩ 4.5km/h
    🔄 5:59:58
    ⬆️ 509m
    ⬇️ 474m
    *️⃣ 934
    📶 22.0ºC
    Saturday 9:03 Restaurant near Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggoire Garmin & Strava
    Earth view
    ➡️ 49.78km
    ⏩ 8.4km/h
    🔄 5:55:30
    ⬆️ 755m
    ⬇️ 747m
    *️⃣ 1,748
    📶 18.9ºC
    Total
    ➡️ 249.5km
    ⏩ 6.76km/h
    🔄 1d:12h:55m:43s
    ⬆️ 4,805m
    ⬇️ 4,729m
    *️⃣ 9,238
    📶 18.7ºC

    Tips

    Consider the following when planning a trip to the region:

    • Gravel or no gravel. “White roads” are a better choice: huge network of them, light traffic, more scenic between orchards, & more variety of loop options.

      Schedule the trip around one of l’Eroica races to participate in it, or just cheer.

      Paved roads are somewhat busy. Drivers are considerate & aware of bicycles. You still get noise & fume pollution.

    • Carefully plan route distance. Elevation accumulates very fast, much more than in New England, closer to the huge Alpine passes.
    • Bakeries are dull at best. You will just have to drink plenty of wine instead.

    GR5 part II: Larche–Menton

    Trip Report: 1–16 September 2017

    New Alps: rocky, steep, wild, & remote.

    The Alps I knew were green pastures, bells ringing on cows’ necks, farm houses on gentle slops, & glacial water fountains to quench thirst even when not thirsty. That was the case during our hike last year on part I of the trip.

    Not in the Parc national du Mercantour.

    Nice

    I had just finished bicycle Route des Grandes Alpes in Menton on Thursday 31 August 2017.

    Friday was a day along the beach from Menton to Monte Carlo & then Nice.

    On Saturday, the group assembled in Villa Saint Exupery early afternoon for a walk to Castle Rock, swim, & bakery stop.

    Sunday was full with luggage transfer to our hotel at end of hike in Menton, walking tour of old town, tasting local bakeries, & shopping at Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya.

    Some pâte d’amande:


    Location: 43.695480°N, 7.275080°E

    Some fruits confits glacés: clémentine & abricot:


    Location: 43.695728°N, 7.274437°E

    Private bus drove us four hours north to Larche to start the hike on Monday.

    Pas de la Cavale

    Breakfast at 7:00 was typical French variety not intended for hikers: white bread, butter, & jam.

    This was expected to be a long day with book time of 7h:00m, not including rest, eat, or swim time. Group was ready for hike at 7:51.

    Trail started with a gentle climb that got steeper later, especially as we got closer to pas de la Cavales at 2,671m.

    But shortly before that, we got a chance to swim in clear frigid water of Lake Lauzanier:

    Extended lunch break was at the pas, before steep descent & another climb to to col des Fourches at 2,261m. Old military fortifications were there, closed. Descent was short to our final destination of the day.

    Gîte communal de Bousieyas made a pleasant stay with good food, decorated tables, friendly hosts, smiles, & home-made jam. They also arranged with their friend Valerie to serve us lunch in St-Dalmas-le-Selvage.

    Col de la Colombière

    Leaving the gîte, we had a mellow climb of 350m to reach col de la Colombière at 2,237m:

    Which strangely has identical name to the col I passed the previous week on bicycle.

    In the valley was small village of St-Dalmas-le-Selvage. We stopped at Saveurs de Montagne restaurant for extended lunch: looking at the mountains, near drinking water fountains, decorated tables, & friendly hostess Valerie. Lunch was salad: mixed greens, tomato, thinly sliced mozzarella, & olives.

    After the second col d’Anelle at 1,739m, we had a long descent to St-Étienne-de-Tinée: few services in town, small market, & pond for swimming.

    Col du Blainon

    A relaxed day to prepare for two long ones without services.

    Breakfast at Gîte le Coroborant was basic, even by low French standards. Instead, I walked to town bakery for quiche & coffee éclair.

    We walked out of town for steep climb to Auron. We planned for extended stop of 2:30 hours: lunch, bakery, & grocery shopping for next day. Local Casino store had Ovomaltine selections: sports bars & chocolate powder. I loaded my small pack to maximum.

    Continued climb to col du Blainon at 2,014m where views opened up for the rest of the day:


    Location: 44.201783°N, 6.939930°E

    We could see big mountains & valleys. Wild flowers were still in bloom even this late in the season.


    Location: 44.1938°N, 6.9285°E

    Gîte Roya was flying a flag of St-Étienne-de-Tinée: two white crosses on red background:

    Col de Crousette

    We got lucky today: rain & thunderstorms were in the forecast. Yet, we escaped by mere minutes.

    Soon after we arrived Refuge de Longon, heavy rain started with hail at times. Later, we could see snow on the far mountains where we had been.

    Chicken, donkey, dogs, & cat were roaming around the refuge.

    We all huddled around the fire to exchange stories & plan for the next day.

    Dinner was a delightful feast. It started with socca niçoise for appetizer: baked batter of garbanzo bean flower with simple toping:

    Then came vegetable soup with quinoa, local variation of mac & cheese, side of dried meat, & cheese platter.

    We thought for sure that was it. As we left the table, the hostess directed us back to the table for dessert: white cheese (similar to yogurt) & blueberry jam.

    After a big hike day & heavy dinner, we were ready to rest ahead of another big day tomorrow.

    Tarte aux Blettes

    No cols today.

    Breakfast at Refuge de Longon was good with extra selection of cereals, jam, whole wheat bread, & Ovomaltine chocolate powder.

    On the long descent to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, I resisted eating any snacks waiting for the bakery in town. I had been here just the week before on bicycle trip:

    This time, I wanted to try tarte aux blettes & tarte aux amandes.

    We spent 90 minutes resting in town square then started the climb to Rimplas. During the final climb to La Bolline, we heard thunder. So we hurried the pace. Luckily, we arrived before any rain or further risk of thunderstorm.

    GR52

    In preparation for Blue Mountain trail running race in Missoula, MT, on 1 October 2017, I went out for a training run.

    We had arrived Saint-Dalmas mid morning. We were to spend the next five days in Parc National du Mercantour, going from one refuge to the next, without any services in between. Priority was food shopping for the next five days: lunch for next day & snacks for the remaining ones. Dinner & breakfast would be served at the lodging facilities. They would also pack lunch for us. We needed snacks between meals.

    Rain was in the forecast starting at 14:00. My run started at 12:02 from town over col Saint-Martin down to Saint-Martin-Vésubie for a quick bakery stop to enjoy tart abricot-pistache, back up the col, & quick descent to town in the cold rain:

    Back in town, I walked in the old part under arches & stone buildings:

    Le Mercantour

    Disappeared in Parc national du Mercantour for the next five days. There were no services, towns, or shops along the way, except for overnight refuges.

    Views were grand & good sign of what to come: big mountains, wide valleys, & quiet wilderness.

    Lakes on the route today were not appealing for a dip. Mostly because of cold wind. Water was not clear either.

    Alpi Marittime

    Immediately started climbing out of Gîte du Boréon. Views started to open up shortly after.

    Arrived Lac de Trécoplas where some people were sunbathing & other fishing. Water was tempting for a dip. But not yet.

    The climb became very steep to col des Ladres at 2,448m. Chamois was resting on the side of a rock.

    A short walk from there, we arrived the Franco-Italian border. On the French side, it was col de Fenestre in Parc national du Mercantour. On the Italian side, it was colle di Finestra in Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime:

    Below was time for a dip in frigid lac de Fenestre: tired legs recovered.

    Descended more to Refuge de la Madone. While waiting for dinner, walked 300m to nearby Vacherie de la Madone for cheese snack.

    Refuge de Nice

    Short hike today on difficult rocky trail resembling those in the White Mountains of New Hampshire & some on Haute Route.

    The climb reached pas du Mont Colomb at 2,548m, a narrow notch with just enough space for us to sit & eat lunch pique nique:

    Descent was just as steep & rocky, leveling off near the dam for an easy walk to Refuge de Nice, overlooking lac de la Fous. Several chamois appeared that afternoon on the mountain, hopping rapidly across the rocks.

    I was hungry for an omelet & tarte myrtille:

    We sorted through cards to play a few games before dinner.

    Bouquetin

    Continued in remote sections of the park on rocky terrain with difficult climb to Baisse du Basto, the highest point on this trip & GR52 at 2,693m.

    We came very close to a bouquetin feeding on Alpine lichens:

    The climb became even steeper with much loose rock. Out of caution, we kept distance between each hiker. Sure enough, a big rock started rolling towards us & other hikers.

    We yelled “ROCK” as loud as we can. By fraction of a second, everyone reacted to avoid it. Shaken, we took an extended break at the col.

    Lunch was at the next Baisse de Valmosque looking down at Val des Marveilles. In the valley, the trail passed a few petroglyphs. Some were replicas. The originals dated 5,000 years. Those not on the trail require a guide. Tours left Refuge des Marveilles daily at 8:00 & 13:00.

    L’Authion

    Steady gusty wind faced us all day from start at Refuge des Marveilles. It only got stronger pushing us off the trail as we crossed ridges & cols. After a steady climb, we reached pas du Diable at 2,430m with a view of the Mediterranean sea in the distance.

    We continued to baisse Cavaline (2,107m), col de Raus (1,999m), & baisse de St-Véron (1,836m). At L’Authion we found shelter among old military ruins for lunch break:

    It was an easy descent to Relaid de Camp d’Argent.

    Flan

    Clouds gave special colors & formations all day. Sun peaked through in the distance showing bright spots. Others kept calm green & gray colors.

    We got a beautiful view of the Mediterranean & Nice from top of Mangiabo:

    The only peak we climbed on this trip. On all other sections, we stayed between peaks, hiking through cols.

    A long descent of 1,500m put us in Sospel for a visit to church, old streets, & wonderful bakieres for a slice of flan:


    Location: 43.8778°N, 7.4483°E

    Mediterranean

    Final day on the trip was one of the hardest.

    We had already descended 2,000m the day before to Sospel, close to sea level at 350m. To finish at sea, we had to ascend 1,100m & descend 1,450m.

    Most of the day was close to the Italian border. During lunch break, I took a quick side trip to Cima Longoira peak in the clouds at the border:


    Location: 43.815237°N, 7.51461°E

    Abundance of wild berries were on the trail:


    Location: 43.823730°N, 7.506325°E

    After two years of work, we were ready for the plunge into the Mediterranean sea.

    Our rooms had direct view of the water. We quickly changed into swimming clothes for a soack in the cool salty water:

    Tuscany

    Late on Saturday 16 September 2017, I boarded a private sleeping compartment on Russian РЖД train to Italy:

    The train was prompt, clean, & comfortable. I had no trouble sleeping for the entire trip. My only concern was sleeping through my destination. At another time, I would welcome an opportunity to visit Moscow. This was not the time. I had an AMC trip to lead in Tuscany.

    Before that though, I grew suspect of this train every time I tried to book the ticket. First, while still in the US, I for two hours on the web site & the phone with Euro Rail, but they would not book a ticket. Web booking on SNCF web site returned an error. The agent in Annemasse, France, fumbled through the system without success. Finally, in Menton, where the train stopped, the agent called for help from the manager.

    Itinerary

    Day Places Log
    Friday 1 September 2017–Saturday
  • Lodging: Villa Saint Exupéry
  • Fruit, vegetables, & snacks: Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya
  • Sunday Room & board: Auberge de Lauzanier
    Monday 4 September 2017 7:51
  • Pas de la Cavales: 2,671m
  • Col des Fourches: 2,261m
  • Room & board: Gîte communal de Bousieyas
  • Log data as recorded by Garmin Fēnix 5.

    Map from Garmin & Strava: download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track.

    Earth view of route.

    ➡️ Distance 21.88km
    ⏩ Pace 22:10min/km
    🔄 Duration 8h:04m:54s
    ⬆️ Ascent 1,271m
    ⬇️ Descent 1,102m
    *️⃣ Calories 1,055
    📶 Temperature 16.7ºC

    Tuesday 7:59
  • Col de la Colombiére: 2,237m
  • Col d’Anelle: 1,739m
  • Room & board: Gîte le Corborant
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 19.82km
    ⏩ 22:05min/km
    🔄 7:17:32
    ⬆️ 676m
    ⬇️ 1,382m
    *️⃣ 1,146
    📶 21.2ºC
    Wednesday 8:38
  • Col du Blainon: 2,014m
  • Auron: market, bakery, & lodging
  • Room & board: Gîte Roya
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 15.98km
    ⏩ 29:11min/km
    🔄 7:46:39
    ⬆️ 1,030m
    ⬇️ 656m
    *️⃣ 740
    📶 19.0ºC
    Thursday 7:45
  • Col de Cousette: 2,480m
  • Col des Moulines: 1,981m
  • Room & board: Refuge de Longon
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 21.80km
    ⏩ 21:59min/km
    🔄 7:59:17
    ⬆️ 1,374m
    ⬇️ 999m
    *️⃣ 733
    📶 28.0ºC
    Friday 7:28 Room & board: Hôtel de Valdeblore Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 24.40km
    ⏩ 20:58min/km
    🔄 8:31:14
    ⬆️ 810m
    ⬇️ 1,652m
    *️⃣ 1,254
    📶 19.9ºC
    Saturday 9:46 Room & board: Gîte les Marmottes Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 3.59km
    ⏩ 16:02min/km
    🔄 57:37
    ⬆️ 277m
    ⬇️ 2m
    *️⃣ 194
    📶 16.7ºC
    Sunday 7:31
  • Col de Veillos: 2,194m
  • Col du Barn: 2,452m
  • Col de Salèse: 2,031m
  • Room & board: Gîte du Boréon
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 23.18km
    ⏩ 21:17min/km
    🔄 8:13:37
    ⬆️ 1,438m
    ⬇️ 1,230m
    *️⃣ 1,537
    📶 9.5ºC
    Monday 11 September 2017 9:01
  • Pas des Ladres: 2,448m
  • Col de Fenestre: 2,474m
  • Room & board: Chalet de la Madone de Fenestre
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 14.94km
    ⏩ 26:25min/km
    🔄 6:34:35
    ⬆️ 1,259m
    ⬇️ 879m
    *️⃣ 1,184
    📶 16.8ºC
    Tuesday 8:32
  • Pas du Mt Colomb: 2,548m
  • Room & board: Refuge de Nice
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 9.77km
    ⏩ 34:05min/km
    🔄 5:33:05
    ⬆️ 749m
    ⬇️ 469m
    *️⃣ 411
    📶 9.4ºC
    Wednesday 8:30
  • Baisse du Basto: 2,693m
  • Baisse de Valmasque: 2,549m
  • Room & board: Refuge de Merveilles
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 12.82km
    ⏩ 31:34min/km
    🔄 6:44:42
    ⬆️ 700m
    ⬇️ 817m
    *️⃣ 350
    📶 14.7ºC
    Thursday 8:14
  • Pas du Diable: 2,430m
  • Baisse Cavaline: 2,107m
  • Col de Raus: 1,999m
  • Baise de St-Véran: 1,846m
  • Room & board: Relais de Camp d’Argent
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 14.60km
    ⏩ 24:33min/km
    🔄 5:58:10
    ⬆️ 820m
    ⬇️ 1,171m
    *️⃣ 917
    📶 15.3ºC
    Friday 8:17
  • Baisse de la Déa: 1,750m
  • Baisse de la Linière: 1,342m
  • Baisse de Figuièra: 750m
  • Room & board: Auberge Provençale
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 28.02km
    ⏩ 18:11min/km
    🔄 8:29:23
    ⬆️ 576m
    ⬇️ 1,891m
    *️⃣ 1,625
    📶 14.3ºC
    Saturday 16 September 2017 8:20
  • Col de Razet: 1,032m
  • Colla Bassa: 1,107m
  • Room & board: Royal Westminster
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 21.33km
    ⏩ 21:39min/km
    🔄 7:41:37
    ⬆️ 1,205m
    ⬇️ 1,597m
    *️⃣ 1,617
    📶 15.3ºC
    Total ➡️ 232.10km
    ⏩ 23:14min/km
    🔄 3d:17h:52m:22s
    ⬆️ 12,182m
    ⬇️ 13,847m
    *️⃣ 12,763
    📶 16.9ºC

    Packing List

    • Backpack: Osprey Kestrel 28. The pack is versatile, light, & comfortable. Enough pockets to organize gear, attachments to hang laundry, loops to hold poles, straps to adjust fit, & capacity to hold gear for two weeks. I had extra space to carry several Ovomaltine chocolate bars & chocolate powder.
      • Towel, microfiber, medium (MSR): for hands & body
      • Sun shirt (ExOfficio): loose, mesh vents, dries quickly, used daily
      • Base layer wool hoodie, long sleeve (Ibex Indie Hoodie)
      • Mid weight long sleeve shirt (Arc’teryx Thetis Zip-Neck)
      • Beanie (Ibex Indie Skimmer hat)
      • Wool socks (Darn Tough)
      • Waterproof socks (Sealskinz): use with trail running shoes in case of rain. No significant rain for the entire trip, so never got to test them properly.
      • Hard shell rain pants (Arc’teryx Beta SL)
      • Hard shell rain jacket (Arc’teryx Norvan): rain, wind, & extra warm layer
      • Running shorts (2) (Sugoi RSR): used constantly as underwear, swim shorts, & regular shorts on warm days. At any lake, I could quickly take off the long pants, jump in the cold water, & back. Changed between the two shorts every evening, while washing the other.
      • Flip-flops: use around lodge & in shower.
      • Light pants (Arc’teryx Rampart): sun protection, light, cool, & easy to wash
      • Sleeping sack (Sea to Summit Reactor): for use in huts, to keep a clean personal layer around me. Heavy blankets were provided for warmth.
      • Temperature electronic sensor (Garmin Tempe: attached to external strap of backpack. Garmin Fēnix watch reads temperature from this sensor, instead of its own sensor impacted by radiant heat from my arm
      • Emergency bivy
      • First aid kit
      • Bag rain cover, included with bag
    • Toiletry bag
      • Clothes pin (4): hang washed clothes
      • Lip balm
      • Tooth floss, brush, & paste
      • Electric water floss to clean between dental braces
      • Liquid soap (Sea to Summit)
      • Band-aid
      • Nail clipper: especially for toe nails to keep them from cutting other toes & getting from getting blue
      • Tweezers: pick a splinter or clean a cut
      • Short straps (Outdoor Research): attach to backpack for extra capacity or hang clothes to dry
      • USB battery charger for AA & AAA (Goal Zero Guide 10): charge headlight & tooth cleaner batteries
      • USB battery, 13,000mAh (Brookstone): charge phone & GPS watches for several days between huts. Decided against solar charger for this trip to avoid extra expense & reduce risk of running out of power
      • USB power charger with four ports. All ports were used most of the time, to charge my many devices, & charge devices for other participants. Most rooms had limited number of outlets, so I could share this charger with others.
      • Electricity power plug adapter to use with USB charger.
      • USB cables (5) for Fēnix 5 watch, Suunto Spartan watch, iPhone, micro USB, & mini USB
      • CR2032 batteries (2): spare for heart rate monitor strap & temperature sensor. Did not use them. The sensors run for over a year on one battery.
      • Headphones: listen to music & podcasts on phone
    • Backpack pockets: emergency supplies within easy reach
    • Waistpack (Arc’teryx Maka 2): frequent use & secure items, always close to me.
      • iPhone 6s: frequent use during the day to take pictures or look at map. Evening for email, Twitter, & general communication.
      • Note pad & pencil: write notes about each day & GPS measurements log
      • Pen: to fill forms at airport or post office
      • Passport
      • Cash (€ & US$)
      • Identification card
      • Global Entry card
      • Band-aid
      • Credit card: used most of the time to pay for food & lodging, except in a few remote lodges that only accepted cash
      • Debit card: used once to compare exchange rates & bank fees. Useful option to have, reasonable fees (about $25). Cash from local bank in the US gave best rate & lowest fees.
    • Me:
      • GPS watches (Garmin Fēnix 5 & Suunto Spartan): recorded log of daily treks, distance, elevation, & map. There was slight discrepancy between the two
      • Heart rate monitor strap (Wahoo KICKR): broadcast in both ANT+ & Bluetooth to work with multiple devices
      • Sun hat (Outdoor Research Sombriolet). Wide rim to protect from the sun and waterproof with ventilation to protect from the rain
      • Poles (MSR Denali III)
      • Sunglasses (Julbo Aero Zebra)
      • Trail running shoes (Salomon): comfortable, light, cool, soft, mesh top to keep feet dry: I did not get to test them in the rain. I would have used the waterproof socks
    • Missed: some items that I want to remember for the next trip
      • Spork (Snow Peak)
      • Long underwear wool pants for cool evenings
      • Thin wool gloves
      • Heart rate belt gel: improve pulse measurement
      • Playing cards with some digital copy of game guide for evenings with group

    Variations

    We created this trip over two years from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean. However, this second part alone is worth repeating as is.

    There are two other options to consider for a tour in this area:

    1. Start in Nice, heading north on the GR5, continue to GR52 from St Dalmas (identical itinerary to our trip), continue to Menton, take the cliff walk from Menton to Nice for a full loop.
    2. Consider the Grand Traverse of Mercantour national park. That is very similar to our itinerary, but does not always follow the GR5.